Fighting with the Stars [Game #45 Preview - DAL]
My, how things differ from everyone's pet theories in the preseason! No one quite believed in the Dallas Stars' turnaround early on, but here they are in their 46th game, riding high as the division leaders. Meanwhile, the Kings sit two points out of a playoff spot in 9th. Though they have a much better goal differential, the Kings haven't converted nearly as many points per game. They need to keep garnering wins and also manage to send some more close games into overtime to get back in the pack.
The Stars are looking to avenge two prior losses to the Kings this year, and aren't underestimating their opponents. Should be high-energy from the start.
So, how's it been going lately? Dallas is currently on a 3 game winning streak. Their PP is 10th in the league (20%), and their PK is 21st (80.6%). Loui Ericksson is riding the longest current point streak in the NHL, with 11 points in 9 games. His line with LW James Neal and C Brad "Not being traded already, so stop drooling" Richards is the one to watch: they've put up 134 points combined. Phenomenal.
For the Kings, Jarret Stoll now has 5 goals in the last 5 games. Not a bad way to respond to your coach's demand for better production. Drew Doughty, who has mostly been racking up assists, finally got his third goal of the season in spectacular fashion Saturday night.
Roster Notes for the Kings: (IN) Jonathan Bernier, who seemed to settle into a groove as the last game went on, will see consecutive starts for the first time since he was called up last year. Terry Murray is rewarding a win, but also lighting a fire under Quick. Trevor Lewis and Brad Richardson are on the third line; Kevin Westgarth will skate on the fourth.
(OUT) Parse (hip), Wayne Simmonds (leg) -- a casualty of the post-Taylor Hall-check dogpile. For those who cheer pointless fights after legal hits, I guess injuries aren't as important as "sticking up for your teammates." At least Hall said he was embarrassed by the display.
Roster notes for the Stars: (IN) Jamie Langenbrunner, recently acquired from the Devils, will play on the second line. Kari Lehtonen (.917 SV%, 2.54 GAA), who has had a very strong month so far, is in net. He was pulled in the last game against the Kings. (OUT) Toby Petersen (leg), Matt Niskanen (hand).
A lighter, more upbeat attitude -- and perhaps Matt Greene's 80s rap playlist -- helped the Kings get the win over the Oilers, along with some aggressive attacks and timely saves. Now let's see if they can pass an even tougher test.